Juan Contreras-Aragon worked as part of Air Canada Rouge's cabin crew for three years, before making the switch to working as an area sales manager for Air Canada Vacations.
"Funny enough, I always wanted to be a pilot but life takes other turns," Contreras-Aragon tells PAX. "I've had other roles in retail management and the IT sector, but my true calling was always travel and aviation."
Now, Contreras-Aragon, who currently lives in Brampton, Ontario, wears many hats at ACV, and is a familiar face at travel tradeshows and events around the city.
"From seeing things from a different angle to always looking for continuous improvement, we do wear many hats at Air Canada Vacations," Contreras-Aragon says. "But, most importantly, I dedicate my utmost attention to our agency partners and agents to help them grow and succeed with us. They are what make this job so rewarding each and every day!"
Here, PAX checks in with Juan to learn more about a steak dinner that made him cry, the "prettiest" resort in Mexico, and that time his bathing suit went swimming without him.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Juan Contreras-Aragon (JC): I always like to travel ready. Having been a cabin crew member for Air Canada Rouge, you always have to be ready for the unexpected! That being said, when I travel, I always have with me the following:
Oral care! Because you never know who you will share a conversation with, and there is nothing more welcoming than a bright smile!
Sunscreen. The sun shines all over the world, not only in the Caribbean, and that’s why sunscreen (Hawaiian Tropic is my go to) is so important. No matter where you are, there’s always going to be an opportunity to work on that golden tan!
Phone charger. I know what you’re thinking and no, it’s not to be glued to my social media. On the contrary, it is to capture the moment with my camera and make sure I get the best shots! I love to print and add significant memories to my photo albums and picture frames all over my home, but to make that happen, the phone’s got to have juice.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
JC: The world is an amazing place, and I have had the luxury of exploring some of the most popular destination in Europe. As much as I love the charm of Barcelona, the rich history of Edinburgh, or the amazing architecture of Prague, there is nothing like Lisbon, Portugal. This city has got my heart (and my lost wallet, true story!) It is the sheer warmth of the people, the amazing and ever changing landscapes, and the oh-so good food. This destination really welcomes you with open arms! That being said, I too love to travel to many other destinations such as Berlin, Puerto Vallarta, and of course, my country of birth, Guatemala.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
JC: This is a hard one, as I have never really “fell” for a particular airport. I know there are some stunning airports for me to still discover, but there is something about YYZ that screams “The strong and free”, and that’s why I’d choose Toronto Pearson. It may not be the most stunning, but it is definitely home to one heck of a jetsetter!
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
JC: This job is truly amazing! You wear so many hats sometimes you can’t just choose one. But by far the best part of my job is my interaction with our travel partners and agents. They are the one’s that make my day to day so much more fulfilling. The fact that our agency partners work tirelessly to make everyone’s dreams travel really resonates with me. And what is there not to love about our travel industry? The world is such an amazing place; helping people discover it really makes our industry a little more special, one vacation at a time.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
JC: Funny enough, my first vacation was so unplanned, and to be frank, very last minute. I did not use a travel agent (which I learnt soon enough as to why they are such a vital part of vacation planning) and decided to just book the “prettiest” resort I could find. I was so drawn to Cabo’s “El Arco Del Cabo” or the famous arch of Los Cabos, I just had to go!
As much traveling as I have done now, Los Cabos has so many firsts for me as a traveller, that every time I think about it, I immediately remember the feeling of doing my first check in, and saying “I’m on vacation!” That feeling and many others are ones that I will never forget and that is why I not only love the destination, but my job.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
JC: Haha! My first resort in Los Cabos. Again I did not use a travel agent, so I did not know there were options and choices to make! I saw the price and said, “Well, it’s pretty and it’s in Cabo, I guess that’s the price to pay” and I hit “Book”. So yes, for a young adult, it definitely hit me hard after I made my choice, but I think it was my credit card that felt it worse. Nevertheless, it was worth every penny!
PAX: What was the most memorable meal you ever ate on vacation?
JC: I have had a lot of culinary experiences that have a place in my heart, but nothing like this one time I was on a layover in Mexico City with a fellow flight attendant. We were really feeling something fancy and decided to hit up one of the city’s most sought out steak houses. Not only was it fancy, but oh-so stunning! The ceiling was made of bicycle rims! – Things really took a turn when I ordered a delicious T-bone with “jalapeños endiablados” or, deviled jalapeños. I’m a heat lover myself but definitely did not know what I had signed up for. Just the steam of the peppers made me cry! – Did I enjoy my meal? Absolutely! Was it the tastiest? Perhaps not. But believe me when I say this, I definitely remember it, even the feeling of it the next morning, if you know where I’m going with that! Yikes!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
JC: To be quite honest I don’t have many. But one thing that definitely does grind my gears is when people do no travel preparation! We all know the airport is no luxury experience. Security will take time, delays will happen, and its safe to say “Expect the unexpected." So when individuals are not prepared to face these things, it does kind of peeve me a little. That being said, I do have patience and usually surpass the annoyance.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
JC: “A jack of all trades” they say! – I have quite a few hidden talents. From electrical and plumbing, automotive, I.T. and much more. I think I’ve fixed my mom’s appliances so much I should become the Maytag repair man! Haha! But frankly, I don’t know which hidden talents stick out the most but I can certainly lend a hand to anyone in need.
PAX: When flying: window shade up or down?
JC: Hm, that’s a tough one! I’d say I’m more situationally aware. If the person next to me is trying to work, or sleep, I’ll do the courtesy of putting it down (after take-off, of course! Landings are a must-have open) and vice versa, if they are not up to much, I’ll have it open. There is nothing like looking out the aircraft window and seeing the amazing world under you.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
JC: Where do I begin? There are way too many to share in just one line, but this most recent one does stick out! I am quite the daredevil; I love to push my limits, and definitely live more on the wild side. I recently took a trip to one of my favourite destinations, Puerto Vallarta, and decided to take a wild hike to Vallarta’s “Rio Palo Maria”. This river is home to some amazing waterfalls and natural springs. So there I am, diving into this waterfall, living it up; dive after dive I was feeling alive!
On my last dive, I look down, jump, and meet the water below seamlessly. Ever so seamlessly that when I float to the top, I am greeted by my red swim trunk floating next to me, yikes! I must have entered the water so quick, that my trunks decided not to join me into the depths of the fall one more time! Yup, I had a Home Alone 2 moment! I guess you could say I was really “one with nature”!
PAX: What are several things travel agents should know about ACV right now?
JC: Air Canada Vacations has some amazing things to come. We are currently undergoing a digital transformation that will bring so many 21st century features to the palm of our agent’s hands. From new and exciting rewards, to our all-new agent portal. Everyone will be amazed once it all comes to life! Of course, just like Rome, this is all not going to be built in a day, and we can’t thank our travel partners enough for always thinking and choosing of Air Canada Vacations, even while under construction! The best part of all is, unlike the Eglinton cross-town, we have launched some features already, and can’t wait to unveil the rest in the following months!
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